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In the long run inflation is generally believed to be a monetary phenomenon while in the short and medium term it is influenced by the relative elasticity of wages, prices and interest rates. The question of whether the short-term effects last long enough to be important is the central topic of debate between monetarist and Keynesian schools. In monetarism prices and wages adjust quickly enough to make other factors merely marginal behavior on a general trendline. In the Keynesian view, prices and wages adjust at different rates, and these differences have enough effects on real output to be "long term" in the view of people in an economy.

A great deal of economic literature concerns the question of what causes inflation and what effect it has. There are different schools of thought as to what causes inflation. Most can be divided into two broad areas: quality Inflation 5

theories of inflation, and quantity theories of inflation. Many theories of inflation combine the two. The quality theory of inflation rests on the expectation of a seller accepting currency to be able to exchange that currency at a later time for goods that are desirable as a buyer. The quantity theory of inflation rests on the equation of the money supply, its velocity, and exchanges. Adam Smith and David Hume proposed a quantity theory of inflation for money, and a quality theory of inflation for production. Keynesian economic theory proposes that money is transparent to real forces in the economy, and that visible inflation is the result of pressures in the economy expressing themselves in prices. There are three major types of inflation, as part of what Robert J. Gordon calls the "triangle model":
Demand-pull inflation: inflation caused by increases in aggregate demand due to increased private

and government spending, etc. Demand inflation is constructive to a faster rate of economic growth since the excess demand and favourable market conditions will stimulate investment and expansion. to increased prices of inputs, for example. Take for instance a sudden decrease in the supply of oil, which would increase oil prices. Producers for whom oil is a part of their costs could then pass this on to consumers in the form of increased prices. because it involves workers trying to keep their wages up (gross wages have to increase above the CPI rate to net to CPI after-tax) with prices and then employers passing higher costs on to consumers as higher prices as part of a "vicious circle." Built-in inflation reflects events in the past, and so might be seen as hangover inflation.

Cost-push inflation: also called "supply shock inflation," caused by drops in aggregate supply due

Built-in inflation: induced by adaptive expectations, often linked to the "price/wage spiral"

A major demand-pull theory centers on the supply of money: inflation may be caused by an increase in the quantity of money in circulation relative to the ability of the economy to supply (its potential output). This is most obvious when governments finance spending in a crisis, such as a civil war, by printing money excessively, often leading to hyperinflation, a condition where prices can double in a month or less. Another cause can be a rapid decline in the demand for money, as happened in Europe during the Black Death. The money supply is also thought to play a major role in determining moderate levels of inflation, although there are differences of opinion on how important it is. For example, Monetarist economists believe that the link is very strong; Keynesian economics, by contrast, typically emphasize the role of aggregate demand in the economy rather than the money supply in IPRI Factfile 6

determining inflation. That is, for Keynesians the money supply is only one determinant of aggregate demand. Some economists consider this a 'hocus pocus' approach: They disagree with the notion that central banks control the money supply, arguing that central banks have little control because the money supply adapts to the demand for bank credit issued by commercial banks. This is the theory of endogenous money. Advocated strongly by post-Keynesians as far back as the 1960s, it has today become a central focus of Taylor rule advocates. But this position is not universally accepted. Banks create money by making loans. But the aggregate volume of these loans diminishes as real interest rates increase. Thus, it is quite likely that central banks influence the money supply by making money cheaper or more expensive, and thus increasing or decreasing its production.

A fundamental concept in Keynesian analysis is the relationship between inflation and unemployment, called the Phillips curve. This model suggests that there is a trade-off between price stability and employment. Therefore, some level of inflation could be considered desirable in order to minimize unemployment. The Phillips curve model described the U.S. experience well in the 1960s but failed to describe the combination of rising inflation and economic stagnation (sometimes referred to as stagflation) experienced in the 1970s. Thus, modern macroeconomics describes inflation using a Phillips curve that shifts (so the trade-off between inflation and unemployment changes) because of such matters as supply shocks and inflation becoming built into the normal workings of the economy. The former refers to such events as the oil shocks of the 1970s, while the latter refers to the price/wage spiral and inflationary expectations implying that the economy "normally" suffers from inflation. Thus, the Phillips curve represents only the demand-pull component of the triangle model.
Another Keynesian concept is the potential output (sometimes called the "natural gross domestic product"), a level of GDP, where the economy is at its optimal level of production given institutional and natural constraints. (This level of output corresponds to the Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment, NAIRU, or the "natural" rate of unemployment or the full-employment unemployment rate.) If GDP exceeds its potential (and unemployment is below the NAIRU), the theory says that inflation will accelerate as suppliers increase their prices and built-in inflation worsens. If GDP falls below its potential level (and unemployment is above the NAIRU), inflation will decelerate as suppliers attempt to fill excess capacity, cutting prices and undermining built-in inflation.

However, one problem with this theory for policy-making purposes is that the exact level of potential output (and of the NAIRU) is generally unknown and tends to change over time. Inflation also seems to act in an asymmetric way, rising more quickly than it falls. Worse, it can change because Inflation 7

of policy: for example, high unemployment under British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher might have led to a rise in the NAIRU (and a fall in potential) because many of the unemployed found themselves as structurally unemployed (also see unemployment), unable to find jobs that fit their skills. A rise in structural unemployment implies that a smaller percentage of the labor force can find jobs at the NAIRU, where the economy avoids crossing the threshold into the realm of accelerating inflation Rational Expectations Rational expectations theory holds that economic actors look rationally into the future when trying to maximize their well-being, and do not respond solely to immediate opportunity costs and pressures. In this view, while generally grounded in monetarism, future expectations and strategies are important for inflation as well. A core assertion of rational expectations theory is that actors will seek to head off central-bank decisions by acting in ways that fulfill predictions of higher inflation. This means that central banks must establish their credibility in fighting inflation, or have economic actors make bets that the economy will expand, believing that the central bank will expand the money supply rather than allow a recession. Other Theories about the Causes of Inflation Austrian School Austrian School economics falls within the general tradition of the quantity theory of money, but is notable for providing a theory of the process whereby, upon an increase of the money supply, a new equilibrium is pursued. More specifically, possessors of the additional money are held to react to their new purchasing power by changing their buying habits in a way that generally increases demand for goods and for services. Austrian School economists do not believe that production will simply rise to meet all this new demand, so that prices increase and the new purchasing power erodes. The Austrian School emphasizes that this process is not instantaneous, and that the changes in demand are not distributed uniformly, so that the process does not ultimately lead to an equilibrium identical to the old except for some proportionate increase in prices; that nominal values thus have real effects. Austrian economists tend to view fiat increases in the money supply as particularly pernicious in their real effects. This view typically leads to the support for a commodity standard of a very strict variety where all notes are convertible on demand to some commodity or basket of commodities IPRI Factfile 8

Supply-side Economics Supply-side economics asserts that inflation is caused by either an increase in the supply of money or a decrease in the demand for balances of money. Thus the inflation experienced during the Black Plague in medieval Europe is seen as being caused by a decrease in the demand for money, the money stock used was gold coin and it was relatively fixed, while inflation in the 1970s is regarded as initially caused by an increased supply of money that occurred following the U.S. exit from the Bretton Woods gold standard. Supply-side economics asserts that the money supply can grow without causing inflation as long as the demand for balances of money also grows. Issues of Classical Political Economy While economic theory before the "marginal revolution" is no longer the basis for current economic theory, many of the institutions, concepts, and terms used in economics come from the "classical" period of political economy, including monetary policy, quantity and quality theories of economics, central banking, velocity of money, price levels and division of the economy into production and consumption. For this reason debates about present economics often reference problems of classical political economy, particularly the classical gold standard of 1871-1913, and the currency versus banking debates of that period. Currency and Banking Schools
Within the context of a fixed specie basis for money, one important controversy was between the "Quantity Theory" of money and the Real Bills Doctrine, or RBD. Within this context, quantity theory applies to the level of fractional reserve accounting allowed against specie, generally gold, held by a bank. The RBD argues that banks should also be able to issue currency against bills of trading, which is "real bills" that they buy from merchants. This theory was important in the 19th century in debates between "Banking" and "Currency" schools of monetary soundness, and in the formation of the Federal Reserve. In the wake of the collapse of the international gold standard post 1913, and the move towards deficit financing of government, RBD has remained a minor topic, primarily of interest in limited contexts, such as currency boards. It is generally held in ill repute today, with Frederic Mishkin, a governor of the Federal Reserve going so far as to say it had been "completely discredited." Even so, it has theoretical support from a few economists, particularly those that see restrictions on a particular class of credit as incompatible with libertarian principles of laissezfaire, even though almost all libertarian economists are opposed to the RBD.

The debate between currency, or quantity theory, and banking schools in Britain during the 19th century prefigures current questions about the credibility of money in the present. In the 19th century the banking school had Inflation 9

greater influence in policy in the United States and Great Britain, while the currency school had more influence "on the continent", that is in non-British countries, particularly in the Latin Monetary Union and the earlier Scandinavia monetary union. Anti-classical or Backing Theory Another issue associated with classical political economy is the anti-classical hypothesis of money, or "backing theory". The backing theory argues that the value of money is determined by the assets and liabilities of the issuing agency. Unlike the Quantity Theory of classical political economy, the backing theory argues that issuing authorities can issue money without causing inflation so long as the money issuer has sufficient assets to cover redemptions. Controlling Inflation There are a number of methods that have been suggested to control inflation. Central banks such as the U.S. Federal Reserve can affect inflation to a significant extent through setting interest rates and through other operations (that is, using monetary policy). High interest rates and slow growth of the money supply are the traditional ways through which central banks fight or prevent inflation, though they have different approaches. For instance, some follow a symmetrical inflation target while others only control inflation when it rises above a target, whether express or implied. Monetarists emphasize increasing interest rates (slowing the rise in the money supply, monetary policy) to fight inflation. Keynesians emphasize reducing demand in general, often through fiscal policy, using increased taxation or reduced government spending to reduce demand as well as by using monetary policy. Supply-side economists advocate fighting inflation by fixing the exchange rate between the currency and some reference currency such as gold. This would be a return to the gold standard. All of these policies are achieved in practice through a process of open market operations. Another method attempted in the past have been wage and price controls ("incomes policies"). Wage and price controls have been successful in wartime environments in combination with rationing. However, their use in other contexts is far more mixed. Notable failures of their use include the 1972 imposition of wage and price controls by Richard Nixon. In general wage and price controls are regarded as a drastic measure, and only effective when coupled with policies designed to reduce the underlying causes of inflation during the wage and price control regime, for example, winning the war being fought. Many developed nations set prices extensively, including for basic commodities as gasoline. The usual economic analysis is that that which is under priced is overconsumed, and that the distortions that occur will force IPRI Factfile 10

adjustments in supply. For example, if the official price of bread is too low, there will be too little bread at official prices. Temporary controls may complement a recession as a way to fight inflation: the controls make the recession more efficient as a way to fight inflation (reducing the need to increase unemployment), while the recession prevents the kinds of distortions that controls cause when demand is high. However, in general the advice of economists is not to impose price controls but to liberalize prices by assuming that the economy will adjust and abandon unprofitable economic activity. The lower activity will place fewer demands on whatever commodities were driving inflation, whether labor or resources, and inflation will fall with total economic output. This often produces a severe recession, as productive capacity is reallocated and is thus often very unpopular with the people whose livelihoods are destroyed.